is a motorcycle Hall of Famer and former USAC
and NASCAR driver.
was the winner of the final auto race at the famous Daytona Beach Road Course in 1958.
was also the only driver to win the Daytona Beach Road course both in a stock car and on a motorcycle.
STOCK CARS: Goldsmith
was the 1961 USAC champion, with 7 poles, 10 wins, 16 top-five finishes in 19 races.
second consecutive USAC
championship in 1962 with 6 poles, 8 wins, and 15 top-five finishes in 20 races.
Championship Car (Indy): Goldsmith
competed in 8 races in the USAC
Championship Car series, between 1958 and 1963 with 6 of those starts in the Indianapolis 500.
finished in the top five twice at Indy, following up a 5th place finish in 1959 with a 3rd in 1960.
"I guess the truth isn't that exciting," laughs Paul Goldsmith from his office at Griffith-Merrillville Airport in Northern Indiana, the facility he has owned and operated for four decades, "but, I raced because I wanted to eat!
Not necessarily the romantic image most have of the inspiration required to run hard and fast with motorized vehicles.
Yet, for a child raised in the ravages of the Great Depression and the deprivations of a World War, the availability of the next meal was a high priority indeed.
It takes more than just a mundane need, however, to endure in racing.
Desire, determination and a sense of adventure are a few of the motivators.
didn't just endure, he
Born in Parkersburg, W.Va., in 1925, his
family moved to Detroit while he
was a teenager.
After serving in the Merchant Marines during the war, he went to work in the Chrysler plant and bought a Harley-Davidson with his hard-earned money.
That purchase led him to a lifetime in racing.
held one of their first races at Marshall, Mich.," recalls Goldsmith
finished third in his
initial AMA venture and ran so well on the county fair circuit that he
got a call from Harley.
"Walter Davidson met with me," recalls Goldsmith
, "and offered me an excellent deal to run for them.
I was just a snotty-nose kid, and I remember thinking, 'Man, I've really gone uptown!'"
made the most out of the deal, eventually winning 27 AMA events, including five AMA Nationals, as well as the prestigious 1953 Daytona 200, ran on the beach/road course.
Through Marshal Teague, Goldsmith
helped Marshal Teague on his Hudsons until the AMA motorcycle season started.
Yunick and Goldsmith built a relationship that helped Goldsmith get his start racing cars.
"Smokey was one of those guys that liked to get things done," recalls Goldsmith
had competed in only one auto race before driving Yunick's Chevy.
had helped a friend prepare a car, which he
then drove in a very early NASCAR event at the Detroit Fairgrounds.
first race with Yunick
was nearly as successful.
"It was a convertible race at the old dirt track in Charlotte," recalls Goldsmith
In 1958, Goldsmith
Driving Yunick's Chevy, he
edged out Turner by five car lengths in the last race held on the old beach/road course.
Afterwards, they looked towards Indianapolis.
"Smokey had always wanted to try the 500," recalls Goldsmith
, "and wanted to know if I'd drive.
narrowly escaped becoming a fatality himself.
Shortly after the 1958 500, Goldsmith
got a call for a lunch meeting with GM's
Because of his
heavy test and race schedule, Goldsmith
turned to flying to make all the dates, becoming one of the first drivers to earn a pilot's license and to own his
That evolved into the aviation business he
was one of the few drivers of that era who wisely invested his
At one time, he
owned two horse farms in Florida and a dozen Burger King restaurants.
has sold those and has the financial resources to retire.
But don't suggest it.
"I'll never retire," states Goldsmith
"I tried it back in the 1980s and didn't like it.
To keep busy, I actually got my license to race standard bred horses."
nearly won his
first sulky race at the Meadowlands, but his
horse threw a shoe.
placed third in his
next outing but soon stepped out of the sulky and back to running his
At 81, Goldsmith
still works daily, flying hundreds of hours a year.
still insists he
has to eat.
One suspects, however, that the desire, determination and adventuresome spirit that took Goldsmith
to the pinnacle of racing is what motivates him still today
In this issue and the next, we continue by interviewing the great Paul Goldsmith
, one of stock car racing's winningest drivers.
retirement from racing, Mr. Goldsmith
has kept a low profile, preferring to concentrate on his
business ventures and pursue his
love of flying.
Now 78, he
still logs over 600 hours a year as a pilot and remains very active in his
Paul Goldsmith was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on October 2, 1925, the son of a riverboat captain.
father passed away when he
was a teenager, and when his
mother remarried, the family moved to St. Clair Shores, Michigan.
was a very successful motorcycle racer prior to racing cars.
started riding shortly after World War II.
soon discovered that he
had the skills needed to be a competitive racer and took to the track.
Before retiring from motorcycle racing, Goldsmith
won five American Motorcyclist Association
(AMA) Nationals from 1952-1955, as well as the winning the '53 Daytona 200.
is one of the few men to ever compete in the Daytona 200, the Daytona 500, and the Indy 500 and the only racer who had ever won on the famed Daytona Beach course on a motorcycle and in a car.
Daytona win on four wheels came in 1958, the last year the beach course was run.
also qualified on the pole for that race.
After the January '63 GM
Racing Ban, Ray Nichels switched from Pontiac to Chrysler
, and Goldsmith
continued his stock car racing career until his retirement in 1969.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Paul Goldsmith
shortly after our interview with Ray Nichels.
had a lot to say about the old days and even some things about racing today.
: I bought a motorcycle, started playing around with it, and found out that I could ride it pretty well.
: Yes, I had lost track of all that.
It was quite a surprise.
HPP: How did you make the transition from motorcycle to auto racing?
: A friend of mine had a stock car he
was building in Detroit.
didn't have many dollars to put in it, so I helped him out and built the engine for it.
It was a Ford
. Then he
asked me if I'd drive it.
: I got acquainted with him when I was down in Daytona for the motorcycle races in March.
I used to hang out with Marshall Teague and got acquainted with Smokey Yunick, and he
helped me with my motorcycle a little bit.
I won the Daytona race in 1953 on that particular bike.
asked me to start driving a stock car.
: Golly, I think at Indianapolis I qualified for six of the races.
: I was getting a lot of publicity riding that motorcycle and I was called downtown to have lunch with the officials at GM
: I had been driving a little bit for Smokey Yunick when the phone rang one day--I was living in St. Clair Shores at the time--and it was Bunkie Knudsen on the other end of the line.
: That's true.
HPP: How did the experience with motorcycles and Indy cars help you as a driver of stock cars?
Do you think there was anything that carried over?
:Yes, motorcycles helped me quite a bit, with respect to handling.
: Oh yeah.
: Well, it was great.
: I think today there is much more publicity in the type of stock car racing that there is on television.
I believe it lost a little bit of its interest in promotion of the car itself.
Back when there were real "stock cars," I think it would have meant more in those days than today.
HPP: What were the most memorable aspects of the Pure Oil Economy runs with the '62 Pontiacs?